Oh, for goodness sake!
Why are so many on the left incapable of acknowledging that many people who are rich – but, of course by no means all of them – earned it the hard way? Until more liberals internalize this, they will fail to persuade America of the occasional need for government because people will rightly suspect that what they are really about is penalizing or diminishing hard work.
It is frankly no surprise when a commentator in the US conflates success and hard work with wealth. It’s something I’ve come to believe runs deep in US culture, and indeed in the UK.
But what a silly argument. There’s enough straw there to fill a barn. Who precisely on the left does not acknowledge that many people who are rich earned it the hard way? Moreover if, as Sullivan argues, so many liberals indeed do not acknowledge that the rich work hard, then why would anyone be right to suspect them of penalising or diminishing hard work?
After getting called on by the crew at Balloon-Juice however, Sullivan doubled down:
As a moral matter, I see no reason why people who work hard shouldn’t keep as much of their earnings as possible, and the only reason to tax them is to provide a safety net for the unlucky and sick and poor, and to fund essential functions of government (defense, law and order, public works, education, basic scientific research, etc). But my real point was about making the case for the necessary evil of such taxation in a civil and constructive way. James Joyner gets this right:
The reason people like Andrew and myself wish the basic fact that most high earners got there through the dint of their own efforts acknowledged in the debate is that it’s crucial to a civil society.
We need a lot of money to fund a lot of public projects. That would be true even if we just funded the ones that 85 percent of Americans agreed absolutely had to be funded. And people with money are, by definition, going to have to pony up most of it. But to confiscate it from the successful without acknowledgment of the sacrifice this entails is to court resentment.
No Messrs Sullivan and Joyner, what courts resentment is about three decades of stagnant wages, while the rich and super-rich see their incomes increase significantly.
John Cole lays it out like a Persian rug:
Like I said, Sullivan is right- there is class warfare going on. He just has no clue who is waging it and who is winning it. Over the last three decades, the rich and super-rich have been paying lower and lower taxes (in all areas- capital gains, marginal rates, etc.), getting a bigger and bigger piece of the pie and amassing more wealth concentrated in the fewest hands since the Gilded age, and what really bothers Sullivan is that we aren’t spending enough time fellating the rich for paying their taxes. The horror of it all.
And this doesn’t even go into the greatest heist perpetrated in modern times- the Bush tax cuts (which Sullivan and I both supported). A direct transfer payment to the most well off in the country, and now we are going to have to figure out how to pay for them since the Republicans sure as hell didn’t. And guess what the solution is- gutting social security and other social programs. Dontcha just love it? Give tax breaks to millionaires funded with social security payroll taxes for a decade, and then when the rich don’t want their marginal rates to go up after that ten year period, bend over social security recipients (who paid into the program) for another rogering. Because that is what happened, and it is all the more delicious when you realize that through it all, social security payroll taxes are capped from 80-100+ thousand over the ten year period. It’s as direct a transfer payment to the rich as is humanly possible. The only way it could be more transparent is if we put Tim Geithner signing checks in the Russian Tea Room and then handing them to millionaires.
Even in the latest downturn, when trillions of dollars in wealth were lost due to the greed and incompetence of our betters, guess who made out? Rich bankers caused this financial mess, and who did Republicans spend all their energy trying to destroy? Union autoworkers and ACORN.